A 28-foot dead basking shark weighing several tons washed up on a Rhode Island beach Sunday.
The shark is believed to have died of natural causes, but biologists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center planned to perform a necropsy to determine the cause, reported Britain's the Daily Mail.
The shark was reported by a homeowner in Rhode Island's Misquamicut beach area Sunday morning. Police contacted the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management which in turn reached out to Mystic Aquarium which sent staff to the site to photograph and document the shark.
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In July 2009, a 24-foot basking shark washed up on a Long Island beach, dying shortly after it was beached.
Basking sharks are migratory fish that travel between Canada from Florida and are common in New England waters. The massive creature is not harmful to people, living exclusively off plankton, invertebrates, baby fish, and fish eggs, according to the BBC.
Though their body shape resembles that of a great white shark, basking sharks are physically differentiated from the ocean's top predator by their different gill slits and their jaws, which are larger than that of a great whites, reaching a width of one yard.
Rather than pursuing individual prey, the basking shark swims with its mouths open, allowing prey to flow in with the water. The shark will then close its mouth and use its gill rakers to filter out the food from the water, noted the Daily Mail.
Using their 5,000 gill rakers, basking sharks can strain more than 1.5 million liters per hour.
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Basking sharks are also known as bone sharks, sunfish, elephant sharks, the sailfish shark, and the big mouth shark.
With females reaching a length of up to 33 feet and males reaching 45 feet, basking sharks are the second largest shark. Whale sharks, which can reach a length of up to 46 feet, are the largest.
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